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NFL drops booth official plan but still to consider onside kick alternative

New York Giants kicker Aldrick Rosas attempts an onside kick against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas, during a September 2018 game. (AP file photo)

NEW YORK — The NFL has tabled a proposal for a booth official who would aid calls by using a video feed, a person familiar with the decision tells The Associated Press.

The league’s competition committee told teams last month it supports studying ways to determine how officiating personnel who have access to a video feed could help on-field officials. A booth umpire would serve as an eighth game official.

But when the owners vote on rules proposals in a conference call today, they instead will be looking at alternatives to a booth official, the person said on condition of anonymity because the league has not announced the move.

Those alternatives will focus on preseason tests of expanding the authority of the current replay assistant as he communicates with on-field officials.

Several reasons for dismissing the booth official suggestion have been offered, from the extra cost of another permanent official to the fact college football has such a setup. Regardless, the league’s approach to improving officiating now will center on enhancing the current system.

The Los Angeles Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman breaks up a pass intended for New Orleans Saints' Tommylee Lewis during the second half of the NFC championship game in New Orleans on Jan. 20, 2019. Remember back to the NFC championship game in the 2018 season. Deep in the fourth quarter at the Superdome. And the missed call — one of the worst officiating gaffes in pro football memory. What the NFL came up with was a one-year trial in which pass interference calls could be reviewed in the video replay system, it was hailed as major step to aid officiating. But the NFL blew it, and today, barring a stunning turnaround, the rule will disappear. (AP file photo)

Also Wednesday, the NFL clarified the rules proposal for an alternative to an onside kick.

The Philadelphia Eagles proposed allowing one fourth-and-15 scrimmage play from 25-yard line of the team kicking off. It can only be done in regulation, and be used twice. Should the team attempting the play succeed, it would keep the ball. If the defense is successful, its offense gets the ball at the spot where the play is blown dead.

A regular onside kick would remain an option.

Team owners will discuss and possibly vote on the Eagles’ suggestion today. The idea is to virtually eliminate the onside kick that is considered more dangerous than most other football plays, while offering a substitute that could be exciting — and game changing.

Recent rules changes regarding alignments on onside kicks and run-ups for kicking team players have turned the exercise into something of a relic attempted only in desperate situations. In the last two years, less than 10% of onside kicks succeeded.

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll yells from the sideline during the fourth quarter of a game against the St. Louis Rams in St. Louis on Sept. 13, 2015. (AP file photo)

After the kicking team notifies the referee it wants to attempt the fourth-and-15 play, it would need to reach its 40-yard line to convert. However, penalties incurred on the previous play, such as a field goal or extra point, would apply and would change the line of scrimmage for the play, which would remain a fourth-and-15 attempt.

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